Let's first clarify what an EHCP is and why it holds significant importance. An EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan) is a legal document formed between the Local Education Authority, Health and Social Care and a child's family or a young person between the ages of 0 and 25.
An EHCP focuses on 4 main areas of need: Communication and Interaction, Cognition and Learning, Social, Emotional and Mental Health, Physical and Sensory. There are also specific sections for Health needs and Social Care needs.
The purpose of an EHCP is a positive one. It provides a clear, structured support system for children facing difficulties and identifies specific measures schools, health professionals and social care professionals must take to help them achieve their desired outcomes. There will also be a clear timeframe during which the outcomes should be achieved and when they will be reviewed. The fact that it's legally binding means the local authority must fund any extra help identified as necessary.
1. Support systems are available for children in mainstream schools, and you may not need to apply for an EHCP.
Schools receive a special educational needs (SEN) budget to support their students. However, how this budget is spent varies from school to school. Some schools may use a significant portion of the budget on pencil grips and specialist software that supports spelling, while others may use it to provide one-on-one support for a student. Some children may also need support from mental health professionals, or social care services. It all depends on the school's approach to meeting the needs of their students through this budget.
If you have concerns about your child's educational needs, you can approach their teacher or the school's SEN coordinator (SENCO). They should assess your child’s needs and if appropriate create an Individual Education Plan (IEP) specifically for your child, which outlines the support your child will get and when this will be reviewed, which should be at least termly. Through the IEP and regular review
process, your child's needs could be met without additional help from the local authority and without applying for an EHCP.
If you are seeking an EHCP, the first step is to request an assessment from your local authority to determine if your child requires one. You can apply directly for this assessment, or your child’s school can apply on their behalf. If your child is not receiving the necessary support from the school, the local authority may reject your request for an assessment, as it is possible that their needs can be met within the school itself. School must evidence the support they have already put in place and the impact of this.
2. You do not need to have a diagnosis to get an EHCP.
Parents often feel desperate to get a diagnosis for their child so that they can get the necessary help at school. However, the process of obtaining a diagnosis for some conditions can take months or even years.
The good news is that getting an EHCP for your child does not depend on having a diagnosis. It hinges on your child's educational, health and care needs and the level of support they require. Your child may already receive some form of support at school, such as occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, or other assistance, but may need more.
Additionally, your child may already have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) in place. All of this can serve as evidence to support your request for an EHCP assessment. While a diagnosis can be helpful, it is not essential. Also, it takes up to 20 weeks after requesting an EHCP assessment to receive the final plan, so if you obtain a diagnosis later, you can submit it as additional evidence.
3. You do not need the support of your school to apply for an EHCP
We often hear from parents who feel like their child's school isn't doing enough to support them, which can be frustrating. But did you know that you don't need the school's help to apply for your child's EHCP? While it's certainly helpful to have their support for the application, it's not a requirement.
If your child's school isn't providing extra help, showing that your child needs more support can be tricky. However, when you apply for an EHCP, the local authority will likely respond by reminding the school of its responsibilities and the services it should provide. This can be a helpful nudge for everyone involved and might make getting the support your child needs easier.
4. Extra SEN support for your child
Many parents worry that their children will be stigmatised if they receive extra help, whether from the school's SEN budget or an EHCP. However, there are many things that can be done to support your child at school; for example, they could work in smaller groups, sit closer to the teacher to help with concentration, or be given movement breaks by handing out textbooks.
Most important is that your child receives the education they are entitled to. Every child is different, and our busy education system may not suit everyone. However, with some adjustments, your child can access the system and thrive.
5. You are not alone.
If your child has special educational needs and you're seeking support, you don't need to feel alone. Grace's Special Needs & Neurodiversity Advisers can assist you in navigating the system, accessing assessments, and managing conditions. We understand this can be a frustrating experience, but we're here to make it easier for you.
The first step is to get in touch. You can call us, email us or use the contact form on our website. Once we understand your needs and your situation's complexity, we'll identify the best service to help you.
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